The Office of Academic Achievement (OAA) is a learning resource center dedicated to preparing students to succeed in the classroom, on exams and ultimately, to pass the bar. The OAA is committed to serve John Marshall students and alumni. We work to sharpen academic skills such as critical reading, critical thinking, logic and analysis, and writing. We also help students broaden their understanding of doctrinal material and to achieve academic goals. Law school is difficult, as it should be. However, there are very specific academic skills that the OAA begins strengthening immediately to ensure that students succeed in law school and realize their potential.
What is Expected?
Professors require that students learn to read, to think and to write like a lawyer. Students are required to: 1. read critically and carefully, to learn the “black letter law” (both the laws and rules for the interpretation of laws); 2. logically analyze facts and determine which rules of law apply; 3. consider the public policy issues raised by legal issues; and ultimately, 4. formulate responsive answers and convey legal analysis in writing.
How Do You Get There?
We recognize that incoming students do not yet have these new academic skills. As a law student, it is their responsibility to utilize their resources and develop these skills. There are specific strategies and techniques for successfully reading, thinking and writing like a lawyer. These techniques can be developed and strengthened with instruction and practice. AJMLS and the OAA have created a curriculum and set of programming that will enable students to succeed in law school:
1. Professional and Academic Success Seminar (P.A.S.S.)
This first semester skills course will cover the basic skills that students need to succeed in law school. Students will learn effective techniques for critical reading, case briefing, identifying legal issues, identifying and sorting legally significant facts, breaking rules into smaller elements, analyzing whether a rule can logically be applied to a set of facts, organizing course material for studying, and organizing and writing law school exams.
2. Facilitated Study Groups
The Facilitated Study Groups provide students an opportunity to gain insight into their professors’ expectations. Faculty provide a hypothetical or problem set for students to work through in small groups. At scheduled times during the semester students meet with their classmates to review techniques for resolving legal challenges in one of the first-year courses: Criminal Law, Contracts, Civil Procedure and Torts. Students are randomly assigned to small groups and work together to resolve the problem(s), and the discussion is facilitated by an OAA faculty member or an Academic Achievement Fellow, selected for their outstanding performance in the subject area. The Facilitated Study Groups provide students an opportunity to monitor their learning BEFORE the final exam.
3. Individual Counseling
All students are encouraged to meet with a member of the OAA faculty to develop an academic success plan. We provide academic support with time management, learning style, organizational challenges, critical reading and responsive exam writing issues. We can also help students formulate thoughtful questions about their course work for their faculty office hours. These resources are necessary for a student’s academic and professional success. Law school learning is unlike any academic experience, students will have to actively plan and monitor their own learning in a new way. We provide students with guidance, access to academic resources and an academic support system. The OAA encourages students to take full advantage of their P.A.S.S. class, the Facilitated Study Groups, and to use the individual support. The best strategy for students is to start early, work hard, use the resources well and to work with the OAA!
Kimberly W. D’Haene
Assistant Dean of Academic Achievement Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School